Giants-Texans Is Must-Win at MetLife

Tom Coughlin

Five teams have made the playoffs after starting 0-3. Five. Ever. That means if the Giants lose on Sunday to the Texans, the only way their season continues into January is if they make history. And with shaky receivers, a bad offensive line, a rookie offensive coordinator, a non-existent pass rush and Eli Manning trying to do it all by himself, there is a better chance of Odell Beckham catching a touchdown pass this weekend against the Texans than there is of the Giants making history.

With the Giants and Texans meeting for the first time since 2010, I did an email exchange with Matt Campbell of Battle Red Blog to talk about the Texans’ decision to pass on Johnny Manziel, the end of the Matt Schaub era in Houston and the differences between Bill O’Brien and Gary Kubiak.

Keefe: Prior to the NFL Draft, a handful of players saw themselves listed at some point as the potential No. 1 overall pick of the Texans. Johnny Manziel was one of those names and being from Texas and going to Texas A&M and with the Texans have the first pick it seemed like perfect match for a franchise that needed a franchise quarterback. But as had been predicted from the start of the 2013 college football season, Jadeveon Clowney was drafted first overall.

I’m a huge Johnny Football fan and have been hoping the Browns’ season would get off to a rough start and the “JOHN-NY FOOT-BALL” chants would break out in Cleveland. Unfortunately, Brian Hoyer has the Browns at 1-1 and almost at 2-0 with a near comeback on the road in Pittsburgh.

Clowney was always the correct and safe No. 1 pick, but do you ever think about what the Texans might look with Manizel as the future of the franchise?

Campbell: Do I think of what the Texans might look like with Manziel? No. Why? Because Manziel couldn’t beat out Brian effin’ Hoyer in Cleveland, where they have been starved for a dynamic quarterback since that two-week period where people pretended like Kelly Holcomb was an actual human being. There’s zero chance Manziel would have beaten out Ryan Fitzpatrick, who, while cursed with a horrid Seven-Brides-for-Seven-Brothers neckbeard, has been been far better than I anticipated.

On top of which, Bill O’Brien’s offensive line already has question marks. The thought of them trying to block for someone who is (a) not tall enough to stand in the pocket consistently and (b) has no desire to stay in the pocket anyway is terrifying.

Also, Johnny Manziel is a douche. That’s important to remember. Always.

Keefe: Matt Schaub went from “Quarterback Who Could Possibly Lead Houston to a “Super Bowl to Backup Quarterback on Possible the Worst Team in the NFL” in one year. After destroying the Texans’ 2012 season, he was traded to Oakland for a sixth-round pick.

Schaub had some good years during his nine years in Houston, but he could never get over the hump of leading his team to at least the AFC Championship Game and it seemed like he might not be the quarterback who could ever do that. But somewhere between the first two weeks of the 2013 season and the weeks following, he lost his ability.

What happened to Matt Schaub? And are you happy he is no longer on the Texans?

Campbell: Matt Schaub was with the Texans for seven years. In those seven years, he had three full seasons and four in which he played 10 or 11 games. I hate the label “injury prone,” but if the glass slipper fits …

Here’s the thing, though: what Kubiak wanted Schaub to be able to do, if the offense was running well, was the bootleg or naked bootleg. Once Fat Albert broke Schaub’s foot, Matt was never able to convince anyone that he was actually a threat to run more than a few feet, so the bootleg became worthless. Without the bootleg, Schaub’s Trent-Green-esque arm strength was a huge liability.

So, no … I’m not sad that he’s gone, and I’m very happy he’s gone. Ryan Fitzpatrick is no great shakes, but the one thing he’s not is a post-Lis-Franc Matt Schaub. (For the record, the other thing Fitzpatrick is not is Eli Manning, circa 2014. So that’s good, too.)

Keefe: From 2010 to 2012, Arian Foster rushed for 1,616, 1,224 and 1,424 yards and last year he had 542 yards in eight games. He has been on the game’s elite running backs for the last four years and already has 241 rushing yards this season.

The Giants have so many problems that we couldn’t cover them all in this email exchange in time for Sunday’s game, but their biggest problem over the last few years has been their lack of a running game. Hopefully signing Rashad Jennings and drafting Andre Williams will change that, but through two games, their contributions haven’t been anything special.

What’s it like to have arguably the best running back in the game in your backfield knowing that even on days when your passing game isn’t on that you can count on a premier running back to carry the offense? Or maybe you shouldn’t tell me because it will only make me upset thinking about Giants’ running backs having only nine 100-yard games over the last 34 games.

Campbell: Arian Foster is a pterodactyl-speaking god. He doesn’t have breakaway speed — not even close — but he has vision and balance that more than compensate for his lack of elite speed. He’s also one of the smartest players in the game, so he’s not prone to those mental slumps that some players fall into.

Last year, the amount of use he’d seen in the previous seasons finally caught up with him and left him a shell of what he’d been.  Thankfully, the team was willing to shut him down and not force the issue, so Foster was able to get a lot of time to heal. While I don’t think he’ll ever be the 2011 Arian Foster again, some of the cuts we’ve seen in the first two games (against, admittedly, sub-par NFL defenses) remind me of those moments. He has more 100-yard games than every other Texans running back combined.

What were we talking about? Oh, right — what it’s like to have Arian Foster. It’s awesome. The dude talks trash to Anheuser-Busch on Twitter for crying out loud.

Keefe: After eight seasons, an under-.500 record and just four playoff games, Gary Kubiak was finally fired as head coach of the Texans with three games left in the 2013 season. Wade Phillips took over for Kubiak, probably thinking that he might have a chance to be the next Texans head coach, which would have been good news for the rest of the AFC South.

Anyone who spends time on Bill Belichick’s coaching staff eventually gets a better opportunity somewhere else and that was the case with Bill O’Brien, who left his job as Patriots offensive coordinator to be the head coach of Penn State. After the job he did with the Patriots under Belichick and his work at Penn State, O’Brien became the most sought after name for NFL teams with head coach openings. O’Brien had his pick of jobs and chose to go to Houston.

Was O’Brien the coach you wanted? What is your early evaluation of him?

Campbell: O’Brien was on the short list of people I wanted, primarily because he went into a tire fire of a situation in Happy Valley and actually looked alright. He made Matt McGloin look like … something other than Matt McGloin, which is impressive. Also, my biggest complaint about Gary Kubiak was always the lack of creativity in play calling and assignments. BO’B put J.J. Watt in at tight end last week. I’ve wanted that for a couple years.

Plus, I don’t know if you’ve seen BO’B in locker room video, but the dude curses like a sailor. Gary Kubiak was more of the “gosh, guys, that’s just not real keen” type.  o, even as a Michigan fan, I’m more than comfortable saying that I’m strongly pro-BO’B.

Keefe: The last time the Giants and Texans played was on Oct. 10, 2010 in Week 5. The Giants won that game 34-10, held the Texans to a franchise-low 24 rushing yards and held someone named Arian Foster to 25 rushing yards. A lot has changed since that game over the last four years since then.

The Giants don’t really know where they’re going or what they are as a team and whether they’re in rebuilding mode or in go-for-it mode. The problem is they’re likely somewhere between the two, which is the worst place to be in not just football, but professional sports.

The Texans, on the other hand, have a new coach and a new quarterback following a disastrous 2013 season and back-to-back early playoff exits in 2011 and 2012 and at 2-0 look to be headed in the right direction.

What do you expect on Sunday at MetLife Stadium?

Campbell: Romeo has the Texans’ secondary playing FAR better than I expected coming into the season, and D.J. Swearinger is supposed to play on Sunday. The Giants offensive line, from what I’ve seen, likes to let Eli try to figure out what to do when defensive ends are making his life flash before his eyes. There are no better defensive ends in the game right now than JJ Watt, and I’d wager that J.J. is kind of irritated that he didn’t get a sack last week, despite constant harassment of Baby Carr.

My prediction? Pain. 27-10, Texans. Elisha with 3 picks. Joy in Mudville.  Etc.